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Cyberworld book discussion for Building a Better World in Your Backyard - discussion question #1

 
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I personally think Paul and Shawn's book Building a Better World in Your Backyard Instead of Being Angry at Bad Guys will make a great selection for book discussion groups.  The group I'm a part of at my local library is going to be discussing it this month (via a zoom chat).  For this I had promised to get our discussion leader a series of potential questions to facilitate the discussion.  I did that and then posted them on my blog site for anyone else to use.

This got me thinking that it might be fun for us here in the Permies forums to have a book discussion centered around the BWB book.  I'm pretty sure many here have read it already.  If not, since the discussions here are perennial you are more than welcome to get a copy, read it, and join in!  So since I already have a series of 10 questions made up (though some have multiple parts) I thought I'd try starting this using them.  Rather than post them all at once in one thread or start 10 different threads all in one day I'm thinking this can work out best if each week I start a new thread with just one of the discussion questions.  Today being Sunday I will aim to do this each Sunday.  (If this is wildly unpopular or Paul and/or Shawn object I'll just declare it a failed idea and quit.)  I feel like it could make for some great threads though since we are all Permies here but I don't know that we've tried any group discussions of the book!  So with no further ado here is the first question.  It's a bit of a general one to get things going.

1. – In the first chapter the authors state, “This book is one massive, steaming pile of my opinion. Well, our opinion.” Were there parts where you strongly disagreed with them? Did you strongly agree with them in other areas?
 
David Huang
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Well maybe this whole idea is going to bomb, or the first question was just too general.  To try to get things going I'll start off with my answer to it.

I don't actually have any strong disagreements with what is in the book though one part that has nagged at me for a while was in Chapter 12, Vegan vs Omnivore vs Junk Food.  First I feel like I need to note that I am NOT a vegan.  I do try to mostly eat a whole food plant based diet which fits into the larger umbrella of vegan, but is different.  Still I eat meat.  In fact today for dinner I had take out Chinese of sesame shrimp with chicken fried rice and a pork egg roll.  That doesn't qualify as healthy or environmental on any scale for me so please don't think I'm wagging fingers at anyone!

Anyway, in the book they note that Michael Pollan suggests in his Omnivore's Dilemma book that you might kill fewer animals as an omnivore due to conventional farming practices for vegetables which might end up killing hundreds of small critters for the same calories of food from a cow.  The idea being that only the one cow was killed for those meat calories.  While I think it is a potent point to make that conventional vegetable agriculture deals in mass death of critters my understanding of most such farmed food is that it is not used directly as human food but rather as "animal feed".  In other words that cow was likely feed much of that "vegan" mass critter killing food.  I don't know what the conversion rate is for cows with regards to how many calories need to be eaten to gain one calorie of "meat".  I'm pretty sure it would be more than 10 to 1.  If it was just 10 calories needed to gain one calorie of bovine body mass and as presented in the book the calories in a cow is equal to 500 dead critters from an equal number of plant based calories then a meal of that cow would really be equal to 5001 dead critters!

Having said all that, something I loved about the book is that the solution they present in this section is equally effective whether you are an omnivore or a vegan.  VORP food solves the issue of mass death of critters and gives everyone a healthier diet.
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